Category Archives: Interwar Years

Dog Tags

Dog Tags

Dog Tags

In the Civil War, it was not uncommon for soldiers to write their name and hometown on pieces of paper to be pinned onto their backs. The idea was that if they were to fall in battle someone would know who they were. Maybe even there would be a chance for their body to make it home.

To that extent, the Civil War saw innovations in embalming techniques that would allow for a body to be preserved for the trip home. If they could afford it. A soldier who purchased the service would be issued a  medallion that they were to wear around their neck. After the battle representatives of the embalming company would search through the bodies to find their clients. These men would be embalmed and sent home.

What would eventually become “dog tags” was born.

On December 20, 1906, War Department General Order No. 204 that was issued. This order made the “identification tag” standard military issue. This tag was to be an aluminum disk approximately the size of a silver half-dollar. It would be stamped with name, rank, company, and regiment. The order provided that the tags would be issued to enlisted men for free, but officers had to purchase theirs at cost.

In 1916 the regulations were changed to provide two tags to each individual. One to be kept with them and one for the burial services and record keeping. At a later point, the religious beliefs of the wounded were added to ensure the proper services during burial.

The tags in the picture above are from the Pre-WWI era and were most likely issued to American soldiers that were engaged in the Philippine Insurrection.

Patton the Olympian?

Patton the Olympian?


Patton the Olympian?


On display at the National Infantry Museum at Ft. Benning is this sweatshirt that belonged to General George S. Patton. With all his bombast, all his skill and his incredible military aptitude it’s kind of hard think of him as a guy that liked to play sports. In fact, he was always a bit of a sportsman.

In fact, during the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, he competed for the United States in the first modern version of the  Pentathlon which was only open to military officers since it focused mainly on the skills every good officer was expected to have. The five events that made up the Pentathlon included pistol shooting from 25 meters, fencing, swimming (9300-meter freestyle) horseback riding (800 meters) and a four-kilometer cross-country run.

Twenty-six-year-old Patton did remarkably well in the multi-event sport, consisting of pistol shooting from 25 meters, sword fencing, a 300-meter freestyle swim, 800 meters horseback riding and a 4-kilometer cross-country run. He did very well in the competition. Ending up finishing fifth overall. If not for the shooting portion he may have won.

Wait! What?

Are you saying he didn’t do well on the shooting portion? Patton? Well, see what happened was that for the competition all the other competitors used .22 caliber revolvers. Patton, however, felt that since the competition had its foundation in military training, a more appropriate weapon was needed.

So he used a .38 for his round. Unfortunately, after his score was tallied up he found that he had lost points when one of his shots missed the target. He tried to explain that he didn’t miss. One of the shots had gone through the hole left by a previous shot. The .38 leaving much bigger holes than the .22. The judges, however, did not agree with his contention and his score was docked.

Not to worry though, he bounced back from the defeat and did pretty good for himself.




Remember When We Occupied Russia?


(Sorry for the dark picture.)

After the end of WWI the United States struggled to find its place in the world. Still largely an isolationist nation, we had come out of our shell in a major way by sending troops to the fields of France. The Entente powers ended up winning the war against Germany, but something more interesting was happening in Russia which would test America’s new role in the world.

In October 1917 the communist forces came to power in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution and immediately signed a treaty with Germany. This freed up many resources for the Germans and placed the outcome of the war in doubt. Russia was gripped in a terrible civil war as the Bolsheviks and Tsarists battled for the soul of their country.

The Allies had other issues besides the massive reinforcements the Germans were looking to throw their way. First off they had spent a lot of money and sent a lot of supplies to the Russians during the war, and no one wanted any of that to fall into the hands of the Communists. Second, all 50,000 Czechoslovakian troops were stuck in Russia, and were being attacked. They had one way out and that was through Vladivostok in Siberia. So the allies had to do something and the decision was made to intervene in the Russian Civil War on the side of the Tsar. England and France were tapped out for resources, so it was decided the US would lead the way.

In July 1918 President Wilson ordered 5,000 men to North Russia (The Polar Bear Expedition) and 10,000 to Siberia (The Siberian Expedition) with the mission to secure whatever war materials they could from the communists, and to help facilitate the evacuation of the Czech troops. As part of the expedition Imperial Japan occupied part of Siberia and China sent several thousand troops. The occupation ended in June 1920 when the Allies felt they had accomplished their goals, the Japanese however stayed untill​ 1922.

The uniform in the picture belonged to First Lieutenant Verner C. Aurell of the 27th Infantry Regiment, “The Wolfhounds” served in the expedition until April 1920. A very interesting artifact from the time the US invaded, and occupied Russia.






The Five Power Treaty of 1922


In the aftermath of WWI, the world was tired of war. Millions had died for reasons that most people didn’t understand. Secret treaties and insane military build ups were seen as part of the problem, so in the wake of the war a massive demobilization was undertaken. A move was also made to limit the size of each nation’s military. Take away the toys, and no one would want to play. The Washington Treaty, also called the Five Power Treaty, of which the picture above present an actual copy, was designed to limit the size of the Navies of the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan.

Signed in 1922 the treaty set a strict tonnage (displacement) limit for the navy of each power. That tonnage would be counted against their battleships, battle cruisers and aircraft carries based on certain ratios. While much time is spent discussing the actual ratios of the allowed tonnage, the important thing to note is that the US and Great Britain were allowed much more tonnage than Japan and far more than France and Italy.

For the US and Britain the allowance was 525,000 tons for capital ships (battleships and cruisers) and 135,000 tons for Aircraft carriers. With the average displacement of a capital ship at 35,000 tons that would limit each to about 15 capital ships. Aircraft carriers at 27,000 tons would allow for 5. A drastic reduction indeed.

Japan was allowed 315,000 and 8,100 tons (9 and 3).

France and Italy came in at 175,000 and 60,000 (5 and 2-ish).

Size and amount of guns on each ship we also limited as well as a ten-year moratorium being placed on new construction.

Like most treaties that came  out of the Great War, this one left everyone, let’s just say “grumpy”. With the world spinning towards the next great war, Japan realized that the treaty left them incredibly behind the other US and Britain in the Pacific and in 1934 the announced they were pulling out of the treaty. In 1936 the treaty was not renewed.

Japan always felt like the little brother to the West in modern times, they way their contributions in WWI were overlooked, and their subordinate position in this treaty simply brought them to the point where conflict would become inevitable.

Aren’t treaties wonderful things?



CV-1 USS Langley First of Her Kind

USS Langley

CV-1 USS Langley First of Her Kind

The above is commemorative print of the USS Langley or as the picture shows, the U.S. Aeroplane Carrier. Yep, the Langley was our first official aircraft carrier.

In 1920 she was converted from the USS Jupiter, a collier and was one of several planned conversions. These took a different path as the Washington Naval Treaty (Hey! Didn’t we talk about that?) lead to several partial constructed battle cruisers becoming carriers instead, the Lexington and the Saratoga.

She had a carrier pigeon-house built on her stern. While this was not highly unusual as pigeons were used by seaplanes at the time. Of course things did not go as planned. If the pigeons were released one or two at a time, they would always come back as they were supposed to, but once the entire flock was released they went home to Norfolk and never came back to the ship. The coop was eventually turned into the Executive Officers quarters. (Please commence jokes now.)

Early on in WWII she ferried airplanes around the Southeast Asia theater and served as part of anti-submarine patrols.  She was not going to be able to avoid danger forever though. In February 27, 1942 the Japanese had their way with her, causing so much damage that she had to be scuttled. A twenty-two year career and she went out with a bang.

In a tragic foot note, after being scuttled most of her surviving crew was put aboard the USS Pecos for the trip back to Australia. Unfortunately the ship sunk on the journey back.